A lot to like about this thing called `Love'


April 22, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Every generation deserves its mismatched-lovers-who-aren't-as-mismatch ed-as-they-think movie. You know, where boy meets girl, boy and girl develop a friendship that stops just short of being a relationship, boy and girl spend years before realizing how made for each other they are. Think When Harry Met Sally. Think Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Now you can add A Lot Like Love, in which Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet meet over passionate, nameless lovemaking in an airplane restroom and spend the next seven years trying to deny there's more at work here than spur-of-the-moment passion. While it's certainly too derivative to be a great movie, it's too goodhearted and modest in its aspirations to be denied.

Oliver (Kutcher) is a fresh-faced college grad, setting off for New York in the first step of his five-year plan to conquer the world of business. Emily (Peet) is a free spirit who has just been dumped by her rock-guitarist boyfriend. The two eye each other in an airport waiting area, opposites attract, and soon the mile-high club is welcoming a couple of new members.

Landing in New York, the two continue their unlikely, and tentative, courtship. It's here that the movie is at its weakest. Both characters come across as too quirky by half, while Colin Patrick Lynch's script strains to find excuses for them to continue meeting cute.

Their tryst ends with Oliver's handing Emily his phone number and insisting she call him in five years, so he can prove his plan for success has worked. She rolls her eyes, doubting the optimistic Oliver can survive in the real world, much less prosper. But she tucks the slip of paper away anyway.

A Lot Like Love then revisits the spiritually tethered couple at intermittent intervals - on a New Year's Eve, when she can't find a date; as he's about to make a major pitch to potential investors in his Internet diapering service; as other relationships end badly. They see each other infrequently, and never seem quite in sync when they do meet up. But each time, their relationship matures a bit, their dependence on each other becomes harder to deny.

For a story like this to work, it needs actors who don't push hard to make themselves likable, but rather are confident enough to leave the audience to their own devices. Peet proves a master at such restraint, allowing Emily to grow - each time they meet, she has redefined herself in some essential way - without turning her into an emotional chameleon. Ceaselessly beguiling, sometimes in spite of herself, Emily could prove the star turn that elevates Peet to the rank of leading lady that she has long deserved.

Kutcher casts aside the studied precociousness that has afflicted many of his earlier film roles; he's never seemed more natural onscreen, nor more appealing.

The supporting cast of A Lot Like Love is given short shrift, possibly because the characters almost invariably seem to have been lifted from other movies. Oliver's deaf brother, for instance, is taken directly from Four Weddings and a Funeral, while Emily has the requisite trio of girlfriends: one saucy blonde, one who is overweight and one who is in a steady relationship, thus giving Emily something to shoot for.

There's nothing earth-shattering about A Lot Like Love, only a surefire cinematic formula competently, sometimes expertly, played out. There are far worse ways to spend 107 minutes.

A Lot Like Love

Starring Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet

Directed by Nigel Cole

Released by Touchstone

Rated PG-13 (sexual content, nudity and language)

Time 107 minutes

Sun Score ***

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